Marriage equality proponents should support the notion of a nation-wide referendum.
I believe their present fears to be misplaced. Firstly, by far the vast majority of Australians live in metropolitan areas. This is not to say that those who live in the country will automatically answer in the negative to any question regarding legalising same-sex marriage — but even if they did, mandatory voting means that they will likely be overwhelmed by the majority of those in metro areas who are in favour (or at least not willing to stand in the way) of marriage equality.
Secondly, once the populace is better educated that a change in legislation will not force any religion to marry a same-sex couple; that same-sex couples already raise, foster and adopt children, both their own and others; that marriage equality in Canada and elsewhere has thus-far not resulted in the Apocalypse visiting these countries; and that by-and-large same-sex marriage will result in no real change to their own lives; the influence of anti-equality lobby groups will be largely neutered — their only remaining argument being tradition.
Thirdly, tradition is an argument easily defeated once you suggest that should these religious lobbies have their way in this case, a woman’s right to vote, wife-initiated divorce, gender equality in the workplace, or any and all anti-discrimination legislation in general could be next — after all, none of these relatively modern advancements are ‘traditional’, and should be wound back, shouldn’t they?
If we take the behaviour of humanity as a whole over the last two-thousand years and agree to base the laws of today on what we did the majority of that time — our ‘traditions’ — slavery would still be legal, discrimination common and even encouraged, only husbands could divorce their wives, domestic abuse would not be illegal, marriages would often be pre-arranged, the working life would begin at age twelve — the list goes on and on.
Obviously, a scant few Australians would agree to return to such repugnant times.
Predecessors to those currently opposed to marriage equality have been present as each of those now-undesirable ‘traditions’ came to their ends, arguing quite vocally that there was plenty of justification for society not to change. I’m sure they trotted out, for example, God’s approval of slavery, implied that men were ‘bad Christians’ for embracing women’s rights (a woman is only a man’s rib, after all!), and congregated about polling booths wagging their fingers in shame at those voters who elected to do away with burning at the stake — but these past efforts happily failed.
These ‘warriors-of-God’ inevitably lost their crusades — upstanding members of the community such as slave-owners, capitalists who exploited child labour, men who loved to beat their wives — and those relics still opposed to marriage equality will similarly surrender to progress in short order once the law is changed, lest they find themselves decapitated by it.
So, taking these points all together makes marriage equality appear to be a remarkably easy concept to market to Australian voters. A convincing print advertisement, for example, need only be a faux-ballot with the following five questions:
“Question One: Should this country return to traditional White Australia policies?”
“Question Two: Should men regain the traditional right to own slaves?”
“Question Three: Should the right to vote be restricted only to men, as mandated by tradition?”
“Question Four: Should the age of consent to marriage and sexual relations be reduced to the traditional twelve years?”
“Question Five: Should the tradition of marriage remain strictly between a man and a woman?”
I suspect voters will answer similarly to all five of these queries. So be ye not afraid, marriage equality advocates — it will be a referendum hard fought, but handily won.
Melody Ayres-Griffiths was a strong advocate for marriage equality in Canada, and is happily married to her Australian wife in her birth-country — a marriage she would also like to be similarly recognised in her new home, Australia.